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The Amazon Queen
Part XIX: Source of Darkness
by L. M. Townsend
DISCLAIMERS: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Solari, Eponin, Melosa, Terreis, Amarice, Cyrenê, Meg, Joxer, et al (meaning anyone else I didn't list and should have.) are the property of MCA, Universal, and Renaissance Pictures and anyone else who has a legal claim (thanks for letting the girls come out to play!) Melysë and The Amazons belong to themselves (and I dare any man to say different!)This story is mine, though, and written just for fun, not profit.
Subtext: YES, though nothing explicit. Xena and Gabrielle, while still soul-mates and the very best of friends, are not a couple in the romantic sense of the word. They are joined to others as heart-mates.
Violence: Yes, but no more than you'll see on the show.
Language: Pretty tame, so far.
Spoiler: Altared States, Endgame, Is There a Doctor in the House, Hooves and Harlots, Them Bones, Them Bones
This story is lovingly dedicated to my little Crow, my Xena, my Warrior-Poet - the other half of my soul, without whose encouragement and faith in me this story would not be. I love you now and forever.
Other: If you haven't read the previous installments in this series, you may have difficulty following along with who's who.
The priestess looked around. The landscape was barren, patches of snow lumped about, though
Melysë did not feel cold. In the distance was a line of mountains, rising starkly against the white sky in the dim half-light of this place. Suddenly, she was approached by an old Amazon - a shamenki by her dress.
Old-Mother, where am I? asked the priestess-queen.
In the Land of the Dead, replied the Amazon, appraising her critically. Though you're not dead. But you'll do...yes, you'll do nicely, I think. Not dead, but not quite mortal, either. Yes, it's you.
'Do'? Do for what, Old-mother? asked Melysë, puzzled. Stop what?
The Darkness, said the old woman, nodding her head. You must stop it...and her...yes, you'll do well.
Stop whom? What is this Darkness? asked Melysë, alarmed. Are the Amazons in any danger?
Aren't they always? chuckled the old woman. I'll come to you again and when I do - be prepared. 'Tis no easy thing being asked of you.
What is it? asked Melysë as the woman began fading from her sight.
You will know all soon, Child.....
Melysë sat, poring over the crumbling parchments strewn about her desk, her dark head held in her hands. She was seeking answers which she already knew would not be found here, in these dusty archives, but she didn't know what else to do. So where are the answers? thought the priestess.
Slowly she arose and stretched aching muscles. Her head was the worst, though. She had been studying the faint and fading ink from centuries past for hours, now. The sun had sunk and the day's light was fading much as the ink from those ancient quills had. Rubbing her sandy-feeling eyes, Melysë looked around the empty cottage. It was nearly dark, so she went about, lighting the lamps.
I wonder where Xena's got to? she thought aloud. Goddess! It's nearly dinnertime, and I have nothing on the stove. I've spent the entire day on those old scrolls - and for nothing. They don't say anything I don't already know.
The priestess began opening cupboards in the pantry of the Queens' Cottage, pulling out some bread and cheese. Sorry, family, she thought. Looks like it's going to be a cold dinner tonight.
Just then, the cottage door swung open and in walked a grinning Xena, a string of trout proudly displayed. Behind the warrior came Selenë carrying a pouting Neiromei. Selenë set her little sister down and the little girl came to her mother to be picked back up.
Xena, said Melysë, smiling in delight, as she cuddled their daughter. How wonderful - I hadn't exactly started dinner yet.
It's alright - I didn't think you'd have time, said the Warrior Queen, approaching for a welcoming kiss from her priestess. Mother's keeping the babies for a while longer.
What's the matter, Little One? said Melysë to Neiromei.
I didn't catch any fish, sniffed the tired youngster. Xena-meia just reached in with her hands and pulled 'em out, but I couldn't even catch one with my line.
It's okay, Romy, said Selenë. I didn't catch any either. Looks like tanti-meia pulled out all the fish in that ol' stream, huh?
Neiromei scowled at her warrior mother. Yeah - that's why I didn't catch any, she said. Melysë smiled and shook her head. Xena took the child from her arms.
Come on, Romy, you're getting too big for your mother to carry, said Xena. How about you help me clean these fish, huh?
The child wrinkled up her little nose. Ewwww! she said. I don't think I like fishin', Xena-meia. First I have to put a poor little worm on a hook, then clean the fish. That's kinda icky.
Yeah, it is kinda, chuckled Xena. Tell you what - tomorrow, I'll teach you how to catch them like I do - no more worms, okay?
Okay! said the little girl, kissing her warrior mother on the cheek before scrambling down to go help with the icky job of cleaning the fish.
Mother, did you find anything? asked Selenë when they had left the room.
No, said the priestess, with a sigh as she built up a fire in the stove to cook the fish.
Why won't you let me help you? asked Selenë, setting the table. I could find what you're looking for in the Spirit Realm....
No, Selenë, said Melysë firmly, turning to her daughter. Goddess, the resemblance to Xena is uncanny! she thought. She's taller than I am, now, too. It's too dangerous. If I have to, I'll do that myself - but let's hope it doesn't come to that.
It wouldn't be dangerous if tanti Tai' had started training me, said Selenë, frowning.
Selenë, said Melysë. I'm not...
Ready to send me, I know, said the girl, sighing. When can I go, Mother?
I don't know, Selenë, said Melysë, pulling her daughter into a tight hug. I just...I'll miss you - give me some time, okay? I promise, I'll send you soon - but Xena may have something to say about it, too.
About what? said the warrior, entering the kitchen with the scaled, gutted trout, Neiromei, pinching her nose, a look of distaste on her little face.
About me going to Lycastia so tanti Tai' can train me to take my place in Avalon, said Selenë.
Melysë noticed the nearly imperceptible stiffening in her warrior.
Oh, said Xena, quietly. Selenë, will you give Romy a bath, please? Your mother and I will make dinner.
Selenë sighed. Yes, she said, taking her little sister by the hand and leading her out to the bathing chamber. But you can discuss my future with me, you know. I'm old enough to
participate in its planning.
She's right, Xena, said Melysë, as Xena's strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her close.
I know, said the warrior, planting tiny kisses on her priestess's face. Don't worry - if she goes to Tai', we know she'll be fine.
I'll contact Tai' in the morning, Melysë said quietly. She needs to go now. Tai' can train her as I cannot. It's time - it's too dangerous to make Selenë wait any longer. Already, she wants to go to the Spirit Realm to help me look for answers. It's only a matter of time before she tries it - and that could be very dangerous for her.
Selenë? She wouldn't do that - she's always been obedient, 'Lysë, said Xena.
Melysë looked up at the warrior and smiled a little. So was I, Xena, but I did it when I was her age, she said. If it hadn't been for Tai' chasing after me and pulling me back, I would have been lost there forever. It was ... a fever, a curse, really, on the Amazons. I lost so many sisters to that plague, I was desperate. Tai' and I both fought it so hard, but nothing was working. I ... allowed it to take me, thinking I could find the cure within it, save my people. But it almost killed me.
Oh, said Xena, quietly, considering. That's another one I owe Tai'. You think Selenë would ...? What am I saying - she's very like you, 'Lysë. She would sacrifice her own life to save the Amazons.
And in that, my Love, she is also like you, said Melysë. She wouldn't hesitate. She is very strong in power, and young enough to think she's 'invincible'. She may be strong enough to handle it, but she's not trained enough to know how. She needs to go to Tai' now.
You're right, sighed the Warrior Queen. What did you find today? Anything?
No, nothing, sighed the priestess, tucking her head into her warrior's neck. It would help if I knew what I was looking for.
Hmm, yes it would, said the Warrior. What did the old woman tell you?
She said I was to stop ...someone .. something - a 'Darkness' - I don't know who or what, said Melysë, troubled. "Or why - or...anything, really."
Don't worry - we'll figure it out, said the Warrior, softly. Meantime, I suppose we should cook these - the girls are going to be hungry.
Um, Xena? I'll cook, okay? said Melysë, grinning up at her warrior, who raised an eyebrow.
Hey - trout I can do! said Xena, feigning insult.
I know, said Melysë. I was just teasing. I would love for you to help me with these.
The following day, Melysë again sat before the scrolls, poring through them. Still she found no new insight, despite her intuition's strong call that the answers were before her.
Xena once again took the girls with her to give her heart-mate some solitude in which to work. She and Selenë needed supplies for the weeklong trip to Lycastia. Xena would be escorting Selenë to Tai', as Melysë had contacted Tai' that morning. Tai' had wanted Melysë to send her right away, using god-powers, but Melysë decided that Xena needed this time with their daughter.
Although Melysë would miss Selenë terribly, she knew that Xena would always take these partings harder. Even Arynë's moving to the outskirts of the village with her malatyr, Tecmessa after their Joining had been harder for the Warrior Queen than for Melysë, though Xena would never let on. Still, Melysë knew.
The priestess once again bent her head to the scroll before her, trying to make out the words, since many of the characters were faded to obscurity. Tantalising bits of the old legends caught the priestess's imagination. She knew the tales were written for entertainment and enjoyment, and were only very loosely based on the true events of history, often pulling people from one time into the time of the tale for the purpose of telling a good story, yet there were still lessons to be learned from them and the kernel of truth was there - if only she could discern it.....
Achlys, the mother who existed before all other beings, the dark mother who gave birth to all creatures....and Chaos rose up out of the dark mists and took a daughter of Zeus to him as bride...
Melysë shuddered. Chaos, she whispered to herself. Oh, Mother, I hope it's not him again.
...and there arose a sorceress, mighty in magic and power and much feared by the.....
Melysë was interrupted by Neiromei, flying into the cottage and leaping into her mother's lap, upsetting a cup of klafé in the process. The priestess looked at the sodden scrolls in dismay, then softened when she saw the contrite tears in her young daughter's bright blue eyes.
Oh, Romy, it's alright, she said hugging the little girl. Just help Mother clean it up, okay?
Neiromei jumped down eager to comply and returned with a cloth.
Did I ruin the old papers, meia? asked the child, worried.
No, no, Sweetheart, said Melysë, smiling her daughter as she gently dabbed the papers dry. These are just copies - the really old ones are in the Temple.....
The priestess's voice trailed off as she noticed a formerly blank portion of the scroll she had been most recently reading filling with words where the klafé had spilled on it.
When thou hast perceived the Source of the Darkness, the way to the Light will become more clear......
Romy! Thank-you! cried the Priestess-Queen, seizing the child and hugging her, while spinning about, to Neiromei's squeals of delight.
What's this? said Xena, entering the cottage, one eyebrow raised, a smile playing about the corner of her mouth.
Romy spilled the klafé on the scroll - and words appeared - it's part of the answer, Xena! cried Melysë, gently setting the child down and running to embrace her heart-mate.
Xena walked to the table, one arm remaining around her priestess's slender waist and looked at the parchment.
What is the 'Source of Darkness', 'Lysë ? asked the warrior.
It's what I have to find, said Melysë, still smiling. But it's more than I knew before. Oh, Xena - for the first time since all this started, I finally have the beginning of the answer!
For the rest of the afternoon, Melysë and Neiromei lightly brushed klafé over the remaining scrolls - well, Melysë did; Neiromei found she enjoyed painting pictures on the blank parchments much more than the light, careful strokes her mother was applying on the old scrolls.
Glancing at her daughter's parchment, Melysë gasped. Neiromei had raided the pantry and had mixed various things together, coming up with quite a palette of colours, but it was the picture which had caused the priestess to stop her own work and gaze at her daughter's with awe. Although Melysë 's painstaking treatment of the remaining scrolls had exposed no new hidden messages, Neiromei's painting was a revelation.
Roiling black clouds overhead and a thick mist rising from the ground surrounded a group of peculiarly humanistic standing stones. Melysë could see the wild, stormy sea in the background. She looked at her daughter, alarmed. These were not the random blobs and swirls of a young child. Neiromei's eyes were the dark blue of the raging sea in her painting and she stared far off into the distance. The little girl merely sat, her small hands folded in her lap, the painting finished.
Romy, where are you? asked Melysë , quietly.
She's in Britannia...near Gaul... replied the child, her voice as distant as her gaze.
Who is, Sweetheart? asked Melysë .
She who does not sleep...does not rest...she cannot....until you keep your promise, replied the child. You must not be foresworn...you three swore an oath to her...Chaos walks again ... Achlys stood witness...the Darkness comes now and will be with us until your vow is fulfilled.....
Romy! cried Melysë , leaping up as her young daughter slumped forward. Cradling the child in her arms, Melysë could feel fever raging through the little body, heat rising through her clothes. Desperate, she bespoke her nykel, Tai', mind to mind, as was their way.
Tai'! cried the Priestess-Queen.
'Lysë . Melysë heard her sister's calm voice in her mind.
Sister, Romy's - began Melysë .
I know - Kaiyté , too, said Tai'.
Goddess, Melysë prayed. Tai', what's happening?
You must come to me at once - all of you - and bring Neiromei and Selenë , said Tai'.
But Tai', Romy's sick! She's burning up with fever, said Melysë .
I know - so is Kaiyté , said Tai', and then Melysë heard the well-controlled worry in her oath-sister's mind. 'Lysë ...it's happening again.
No, said Melysë , her horror growing to near-panic. No, it can't - it's impossible.
It's the same - high fever, intense pain all over, coma and then death, said Tai'. We've already lost many - all Amazons. It is the same as before. You must come soon, Little Sister, you and Gabrielle and Xena. Bring Romy and Selenë .
But Tai' -
Just please hurry, 'Lysë - we don't have much time, said Tai', then Melysë felt her leave.
Swiftly, the priestess carried her daughter to the bathing chamber and stripped off her tunic. She
stepped down into the wooden tub with Neiromei, holding her up and trickling the tepid water over the child's burning hot skin.
'Lysë ? You in here?
Melysë looked up to see Xena standing there. Tears streamed from the Priestess-Queen's dark green eyes. What's wrong? asked Xena, jumping into the tub with them and taking their young daughter into her own arms. Gods! She's burning up!
I think I finally know what this 'Darkness' is - Chaos, the ancient enemy, and... oh Blessed Goddess! If I'm right, the Amazons are in very grave danger, Xena, said Melysë. It...it's the curse. Melysë felt somehow calmer in her warrior's presence. Xena, I'm scared. Tai' had to travel back in time to Atlantis to retrieve the cure - that's where she met Lukos.
Xena was quiet for a moment. Tai' has the cure? she said at last.
She did, said Melysë, troubled. I just spoke with her - she said the fever is there, too - and there have been deaths. So I don't think the cure is working.
I was coming to tell you that we have to postpone the trip, said Xena, her voice quiet with concern. There's a storm coming - a bad one by the look of it.
Melysë closed her eyes. Tai' said we have to get there to her as soon as possible, she said. All of us - you, me, Gabrielle...Selenë and Romy, too. Kaiyté is sick with this, as well.
You're going to do a ... said Xena, uneasily.
Melysë smiled weakly. A 'god-thing'?
Yeah, said Xena.
I have to, don't I? said the priestess, looking down on her sick child.
Meia, Xena, Selenë came running into the bathing chamber, then stopped, seeing her mothers in the tub with her little sister. Oh, Goddess! Not Romy, too!
What do you mean, 'too'? said Xena, eyes narrowing.
Fever in the Village, said Selenë , quietly, kneeling beside them. Melysë handed Neiromei up to her older sister. Xena helped her priestess out of the tub, climbing up after her and retrieving towels for them.
How many? asked Melysë, her voice grim, her jaw set.
Ten, said Selenë , quietly, stroking her little sister's face gently. But Romy's the only child so far. Just as well we postponed the trip - Hypsyple will need me here.
We're going, Selenë , said Melysë firmly.
But...but Mother.... said Selenë , frowning. How can we? We're needed here.
No, we're needed where we can stop this Darkness at its source, said Melysë .
Oh, said Selenë, nodding. Okay. Tanti Tai' will know what to do?
I don't know, Sweetheart, said Melysë, looking down at Neiromei's pale face. But I'm hoping we can figure it out together.
Selenë nodded. We should take Ephiny, too, she said.
Melysë looked up at her daughter, startled. Why?
I don't know - it just seems like the right thing to do, said Selenë, frowning, her head slightly cocked as if listening to something only she could hear.
Melysë sighed. Very well, she said.
I'll get Gabrielle, said Xena, leaving them.
I'll go and tell Eph' - and Hypsyple, said Selenë. Unless you need me, Mother?
No, go on, said Melysë, taking Neiromei back from Selenë. I'll get Romy ready for the trip.
Melysë carried the child back into the cottage, gently setting the whimpering child down in her bed.
Meia! she cried out.
Melysë gently soothed her young daughter.
Meia's here, Love, said the priestess, her dark eyes filled with tears of worry.
Meia, said Neiromei, sleepily. Take the picture to...tanti Tai'. An exhausted, dreamless slumber claimed the little girl then.
Melysë rolled the parchment carefully and placed it onto the pack she would carry.
'Lysë, said Gabrielle, entering the cottage, quietly. Need any help? Xena said we're leaving soon.
No, said Melysë, then suddenly burst into tears, standing in the middle of the room. Quickly Gabrielle went to her, offering a comforting hug. Melysë wept for a moment longer, the Bard Queen whispering comforting words.
Romy will be alright - you'll see, said Gabrielle.
No, it's ... I just felt ... they're gone, said Melysë, regaining control. Our sisters .. the fever took them. They're gone.
Oh, said Gabrielle, tears springing to her own emerald green eyes. I'll ... go and .. make the arrangements, alright?
Melysë nodded. Yes, please, she said. I just ... please, Gabrielle. I just ... can't ...
It's okay, 'Lysë, said Gabrielle, offering a watery smile as she left. We'll beat this - you'll see.
Thank you, said Melysë, as the Bard left the cottage. The priestess finished the packing and used her powers to send their things ahead to Tai's cottage in Lycastia. Then she went and picked up Neiromei, sitting with her, giving her young daughter her magic healing touch until Xena came in and saw the tears streaming from Melysë's dark, golden-green eyes.
Hey, said the Warrior Queen going and sitting with her heart-mate and their daughter, wrapping
her strong arms around then both. Melysë leaned back against her warrior, revelling in her strength, taking comfort in the close contact. Meg and Mother will stay at the Lodge and take care of the babies as well as Lilia and Terreis.
Okay, said the priestess. We'll leave....after the pyres have been lit.
How many? asked Xena gently.
All ten - and a score more has fallen ill, said Melysë, quietly. Oh, Xena! Will there be any Tribe left when we return?
Of course there will be, 'Lysë , said Xena, pulling them closer.
Selenë entered the room. Mother, tanti-meia, it's time, she said. Melysë and Xena arose and followed Selenë to the river where the pyres had been built upon wooden biers. The sun was sinking and with the approaching storm, the twilight seemed darker than usual. Melysë sadly noticed that three more pyres had been prepared. Gently she handed Neiromei to Selenë, who took her little sister over to where Ephiny, Arynë, and Tecmessa stood. Melysë took her place with Xena and Gabrielle, the three queens standing before the Tribe. Melysë took the torch and began lighting the funeral pyres, speaking the ritual words,
Blessed be, dear sister. Dream well as you sleep in the loving arms of the Great Mother. Embrace Her eternal peace, or if you will, return to those of us who love you. Your soul is free to soar, now. Blessed be.
Tears flowed freely from Amazon eyes as Xena and Gabrielle pushed each burning pyre from its bier into the fast-flowing river. As the last pyre made its way down the river, the drums began and the Amazon dancers danced their sisters' souls to the Land of the Dead.
Melysë stood, weeping openly as Xena stepped up behind her, wrapping her arms around the priestess-queen. Gabrielle came up beside Melysë and the priestess pulled her closer. The three queens stood together so, watching their fallen sisters float out of sight.
Xena remembered every Amazon funeral she had ever witnessed to this day. With a sharp flash of pain, she remembered how Gabrielle had clung to her, weeping for Ephiny, their dearest friend....how she and Gabrielle had needed that close contact, even as they all needed it now.
The warrior's deep blue eyes narrowed. I'm tired of standing over the fires of my friends, she said. Let's go and stop this.
Melysë nodded. Let's go, she said, turning to retrieve Neiromei.
Arynë was holding the little girl while Selenë and Ephiny stood on either side of them. A bluish light surrounded Neiromei. Melysë noticed Ephiny as deep in concentration as Selenë .
The queens approached their daughters and Melysë reached out for Neiromei.
It's okay, Mother, said Arynë, smiling. She's really too heavy for you to carry around all the time now. I've got her.
Ephiny, said Gabrielle, smiling proudly. You have an incredible gift. Ephiny merely smiled.
We're going to stop this curse at the source before any more Amazons die, Melysë said. I
need you to help Hypsyple as much as you can.
And hold the Tribe for us, said Gabrielle.
Of course we will, said Tecmessa.
Suddenly, Melysë felt a surge of power, a loving warmth filling her completely, threatening to spill over. Instinctively, the priestess leaned in and lightly kissed Selenë, Ephiny, Arynë, and Tecmessa on their foreheads, feeling the power pass on to the girls as she did.
Now you have Hekate's blessing, my Daughters, said the priestess, still entranced. You four are the Guardians of the Nation's future...once again....
'Lysë? said Xena, concerned. She knew Melysë still sometimes feared these deep trances which occasionally took her.
It's okay, my Love, said the priestess, smiling, though her eyes remained unfocussed. Hekate says these four Guardians will be immune to the Curse -
Melysë was interrupted by a sudden sharp crack of thunder, like an angry shout, which continued to reverberate in the earth under their feet. Lighting snaked down from the black clouds and then the rain, heavy and insistent, beat down upon the Amazons, drenching them. The women of the Tribe ran for the Village and the shelter of their homes only after Gabrielle made a hasty gesture of dismissal to them, leaving the queens and their daughters standing by the now-raging river.
'Ryn, Tecmessa, said Melysë, now awakened from her trance and shouting to be heard over the storm. Hold the Tribe - and help Hypsyple to keep them alive.
Arynë nodded and handed her little sister over to Xena. She and Tecmessa stepped back and watched the others leave in a flash of blinding white light before turning and running for the Healer's hut to offer what assistance they could.
The queens and their daughters appeared before Tai's well-appointed cottage, still drenched from the downpour they had recently left and shivering in the chill wind that announced yet another storm advancing upon Lycastia. The cottage door flew open and Melysë saw Lukos, his eyes filled with worry as he gestured the Amazons inside.
Melysë sighed with relief at the heat from the fire. Neiromei was limp and still, but still breathing evenly in Xena's arms. Selenë stepped forward and took her little sister as Lukos, smiling sympathetically, handed them a towels and hot klafé. Gratefully Melysë sipped at the cup.
Thank-you, Lukos, she said, sinking gratefully into the chair he offered the exhausted priestess.
Tandos - Uncle - where is tanti Tai'? asked Selenë.
In Kaiyté 's room, said the physician, his voice betraying his fear for his young daughter.
Where is Telaros? asked Melysë, referring to Kaiyté 's twin brother.
He - uh, Mikala has him, replied Lukos.
Melysë smiled knowingly. He's not sick then, she said, relieved.
No - none of the males are sick with this - only Amazons, said Lukos. makes it damn hard to treat this, too. Not many Amazons will accept a male physician.
That's stupid, said Ephiny. Who cares whether a healer is man or woman so long as they have the skill and knowledge?
Melysë merely shook her head. Although she knew and trusted Lukos to be a gifted and skilled physician and she trusted him implicitly, she, too, would never allow any other male healer to treat her. Intellectually, she agreed with Ephiny, but life-long conditioning was hard to overcome, she knew.
Mother, why don't Eph' and I spell you and tanti Tai' with the little ones - you should try to sleep, said Selenë.
Melysë merely nodded wearily, and rose as Lukos offered to take them to Tai'. Xena remained, staring into the flames. Lukos returned moments later, pouring two mugs of ale and handing one to Xena. The two stood before the hearth in silence for a while, listening to the thunder of the approaching storm . At last Xena spoke.
'Lysë said she and Tai' have fought this before, said the warrior. Lukos took a large swallow of ale before replying.
Many years ago, he said. The fever descended upon the Amazons and both Tai' and 'Lysë fought very hard to save them. They succeeded.
How? asked Xena.
Melysë was stricken with it - according to Tai', she was working too hard to save her Amazons to take care of herself, said Lukos.
Some things never change, said Xena, softly. Lukos chuckled.
Tai' was led back in time to me on the island of Atlantis, he continued. She, too fell ill, but we had the cure there. She brought it back to Melysë, in spite of the fact....well, never mind that. Suffice to say, she saved Melysë. And the rest of the Amazons.
What is this cure? Where is it? Do you know how to make it? asked Xena.
It's not working this time, said Lukos, slamming his empty mug down in frustration.
Okay, said Xena. But something will. It has to.
Tai'? said Melysë, quietly entering the room, followed by Gabrielle and the girls. Tai' looked up and smiled a little. Melysë felt tears spring into her eyes as she looked at little Kaiyté, her blonde
curls clinging damply to her pale face, her eyes open and glassy with fever.
Hi, tanti, she whispered to Melysë . Is Romy here?
Yes, aliki - Sweetheart, said the priestess. She's right here. Selenë brought Neiromei to her nykel. Kaiyté frowned and weakly swatted at her friend.
Romy, wake up, she said.
Neiromei opened her eyes slowly, saw Kaiyté and smiled. You sick, too? she asked.
Yeah, sighed Kaiyté . Guess we can't play today.
Nope - don't feel like it, said Neiromei, closing her blue eyes again.
Selenë, bring her here, please, said Kaiyté , struggling to sit up.
Hey, little one, said her mother. Take it easy.
It's okay, meia, said the child. If Romy's here, we'll be okay.
Selenë started to set Neiromei down on the bed beside her nykel, but the little girl whimpered, clinging to her big sister.
No, she said. It'll hurt if you let go. Meia! Don't let her let go!
It's okay, Romy, said Kaiyté . 'Member your arm? Come here - if we're here together, we'll be okay. I promise.
Still apprehensive, but trusting her best friend, Neiromei allowed herself to be set down beside Kaiyté . She sighed when the expected pain did not come. How'd you know that, Kaiyté ? she asked. Kaiyté shrugged.
Just did, she replied. Meia, tanti, we're okay now.
You sure? said Tai', warily.
Yes, said Neiromei, snuggling with her best friend, her eyes closing sleepily. Kaiyté, too, laid back down and yawned. Both girls fell into a deep, healing sleep.
Melysë sighed in relief. Selenë and Ephiny looked at each other and grinned. Selenë hugged her mother.
She's okay, meia, said the girl.
For now, said Melysë, still worried. And there are others, still very ill....
Tanti 'Lysë, you should lay down, said Ephiny, frowning. You, too, tanti Tai'.
I'm alright, said Melysë, smiling at the girls.
Why don't you two go to the kitchen and see if there's some klafé made? said Tai'.
There is, said Selenë . Tandos brought some to meia. Would like us to bring some to you, tanti?
Please, Selenë , said Tai'. That would be very nice - and some for your mother - I see she can use it.
The girls went out and Tai' looked critically at Melysë . You are exhausted, Little Sister, she said.
No, not - began Melysë . Then seeing her sister's look, she amended. Maybe a little. I'm more scared than anything. Tai', are you sure it's the same fever?
Aren't you? asked Tai'. Come on, 'Lysë - we've both seen this before. Chaos is doing it again.
Melysë nodded. I was hoping.... she said, then sighed.
I know, said Tai'. The question is, what do we do?
I don't know, said Melysë , tears welling in her dark green eyes. We ... lit thirteen pyres just before we left ... and that's only the beginning.
Oh, Little Sister, said Tai', hugging the priestess. I'm sorry - I know how hard that is for you to do.
It's just so ... senseless, said Melysë . Why?
Who knows? said Tai'. The nature of Chaos is perverse. His reasons don't make sense to us, they're not rational - that's the nature of Chaos.
But, Tai', last time, we had a cure - why not this time? asked Melysë.
I don't know - it's the same illness - but Lukos's cure isn't working, said Tai', frowning.
You know, Tai', when Romy spilled klafé on one of the scrolls, words appeared, said Melysë , thoughtfully. 'When thou hast perceived the Source of the Darkness, the way to the Light will become more clear.....'
I'm not familiar with that one, said Tai', frowning. Which scroll was that?
I don't exactly remember, said Melysë . Let me get my pack - I brought it with us.
Melysë went back into the main room of the cottage, smiling in amusement at Xena and Lukos
quietly discussing the properties of various healing herbs and techniques. My warrior of many skills, indeed, she thought. She can kill and cure with but a touch.
Melysë returned to Tai' with her pack of scrolls. She pulled one out curiously, unrolling it.
Oh, she said quietly, staring at the parchment.
What is it 'Lysë ? asked Tai'
Romy did this - just before she got sick, said the priestess, handing the picture to her nykel.
Goddess, Tai' whispered, staring at the picture. I know this place - it's on the furthest reaches of Alba - or Caledonia, in Britannia.
What does it mean, Tai'? asked the Priestess.
I don't know, said Tai', thinking. Let me work on this for a bit and see what we come up with, alright, Little Sister. In the meantime, I think you need to get some rest.
Selenë arose before the sun. She glanced over at her malatyr, still fast asleep and smiled. She had heard tandos Lukos and Xena meia discussing Ephiny the night before. Tandos Lukos wanted Eph' to stay and apprentice to him, to learn to be a physician, as he was. Selenë thought was a splendid idea - Ephiny had always complained about having been raised for so many years outside of Amazon territory, but that upbringing had afforded an ease with men that even Selenë herself did not have. Ephiny could learn from tandos Lukos and care for the people of Britannia when it was time for Selenë to take her place there.
Slipping silently outside of the cottage, Selenë glanced up at the sky. Dark clouds still hung in the distance and the low rumble of thunder still echoed through the mountains surrounding Lycastia. Swiftly she made her way to the sea behind the cottage and said a prayer her mother had taught her long ago.
(To be continued in Part XIX)
alt fic | xena
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